The new Promoting Good Science (PGS) programme, which is the follow-up to the Fostering Responsible Research Practices (FRRP) programme, will be chaired by Sally Wyatt. PGS is aimed at encouraging sustainable improvements in the science system. Eduard Klasen is stepping down as former chair of FRRP, and he is confidently passing the baton on to his successor Sally, who wants to involve the broader science domain.
Sally Wyatt is Professor of Digital Cultures at Maastricht University and a social scientist in the research fields science, technology and society. As a scientist, she investigates the impact of digitalisation on society and, in the past, also conducted research into open data in science.
‘Issues such as integrity and responsible innovation are important to me and of interest to my research’, says Sally. ‘After all, you do not practice science just for yourself, but for others as well.’ And with “others”, Sally not only refers to fellow scientists and students, but also to society. ‘I believe it is vital that scientists set a good example to both the next generation of scientists and to the general public.’ Her golden rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Eduard Klasen was chair of the FRRP programme from 2016 to 2022. He is the former dean of Leiden University Medical Center and Emeritus Professor of Management of Health Research. ‘It all began in 2012’, recalls Eduard. ‘Back then, articles about the state of scientific research were published with great regularity.’ Issues that came to light in that period included publication pressure, a lack of interdisciplinary collaborations and insufficient attention for the societal impact of research. ‘ZonMw was of the view that research funding bodies should play a role in facilitating good science’, recounts Eduard. ‘However, at the time, there was absolutely nothing in this area, no funds and no plan.’
Under the leadership of Eduard, ZonMw initiated the project “System failures” in 2013 to find out more about the causes, consequences and solutions for system failures (problems in the research system). ‘We visited organisations, experts and deans and documented and learned an awful lot’, recalls Eduard.
Subsequently, the foundation was laid for the FRRP programme. ‘I set up a workgroup together with Lex Bouter, Professor of Research Integrity’, continues Eduard. In 2015, the workgroup reached the conclusion that although there are many theories about factors that influence the science system, very little research had been done into this. The science-wide FRRP programme was established on the basis of this finding. ‘Back then, it was unique but, fortunately, that is no longer the case’, says a satisfied Eduard. ‘Now we have more partners from which we can learn a great deal, such as the Research on Research Institute.
Since the start of the FRRP programme, a total of 17 projects and several large research initiatives have been funded. Furthermore, meetings and workshops have been organised. The FRRP projects give insight into what is going well and where improvements are needed to safeguard good science. Examples are improving the peer-review system, setting up training courses in universities of applied sciences about how to carry out responsible research, and encouraging a more balanced evaluation of researchers.
The programme has taken a first and necessary step toward the structural and systematic investigation of the science system. ‘The FRRP programme managed to create a good network’, states Eduard proudly. In addition to this, it has a clear added value with respect to current developments in science, such as Open Science and the new theme Recognition and Rewarding. ‘We took a broad approach and achieved a lot, but we need to step up our efforts even more’, concludes Eduard. ‘I think this presents a fine opportunity for the follow-up project.’
The FRRP programme has been completed and ZonMw is now working towards the follow-up trajectory, namely the Promoting Good Science programme. Eduard worked with considerable pleasure and commitment on the FRRP programme. ‘After so many years, this seems a good moment to stop because otherwise, you run the risk of repeating yourself, and that is not wise, and neither should you want that.’ However, Eduard does not want to disappear from view entirely. ‘This subject is close to my heart, and so I would like to remain in touch with developments.’ Eduard is pleased that he can pass on the responsibility with confidence to Sally. ‘I wish Sally every success and, in particular, much job satisfaction, because it is also a genuinely exciting task.’
Sally is impressed by everything that has been achieved in recent years. ‘I hope that we can build further upon this’, she says. ‘It is an inspiring, important and interesting subject, and we still have a long way to go.’ Many challenges remain. ‘How will we give this shape for broader science domains, and how will we demonstrate the relevance of the PGW programme?’ asks Sally. ‘We need to take into account that many aspects of good research practices are strongly context-dependent and do not apply to all science disciplines.’ Sally has personally worked with many scientists from different disciplines and knows, like no other, that doing research in a responsible manner is not a universal concept. ‘We need to remain aware of that’, she adds.
Sally is inspired by the positive tone of the FRRP programme. ‘There was much attention for good practices and all the research that is done in a proper manner’, says Sally. ‘I think that this focus will allow us to exert a positive influence.’ Looking toward the future, Sally would like to see that reflecting on science becomes a normal thing to do. ‘Reflecting on your own work and that of others should not be seen as something that is independent of your day-to-day activities’, reasons Sally. ‘As scientists, reflecting is part of our responsibility with respect to ethics, politics and science.’ For the time being, the emphasis is a step-by-step approach. ‘We cannot do everything at once, and so we will need to establish priorities’, states Sally. Or, like Eduard says: ‘It’s better to do one thing well, than to try to bring a thousand things to fruition at the same time.’
The Promoting Good Science (PGS) programme is a follow-up trajectory to the Fostering Responsible Research Practices (FRRP) programme. The FRRP programme investigated science to be able to guarantee robust, qualitatively good and principled research. This involved examining the current science system and culture, such as the way in which scientists give shape to good science, and which problems they encounter in doing this. The FRRP programme started in 2016 and collected knowledge about what constitutes good science and which obstacles it encounters. In the follow-up programme PGW, this knowledge will be used to encourage sustainable system changes in science.